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Microgreens urban farm hiding in Brookline Village, Massachusetts

Unbeknownst to passersby as they make their way down Route 9 by Brookline Village, is that tucked away in one of the tall, grey buildings that line the road are vibrant microgreens, growing in carefully maintained grow tents.

New to Brookline, Legitimate Farms is an all-indoor, all-hydroponic urban farm growing a variety of microgreens, including mustard, daikon and lavender. The duo behind Legitimate Farms, Mike Becker and Skippy – just Skippy – moved into their space at 71 Boylston St. in August, and began harvesting in late January.

Though just a two-man operation, the farm yields an impressive amount of food. With about 80 shelves of microgreens, the farm produces about 40 pounds of food a day, according to Becker.

This is one of the beauties of microgreens, according to Becker. Rather than wait for the greens to mature to vegetables, the microgreens are ready for harvest in just days – 12 to 14 – and the flavor packs a bold punch.

“The flavor of the microgreen is the flavor of the whole plant concentrated in a tiny plant,” Becker said. The pair also experiments with other plants and hopes to offer sunflower, which they described as “buttery, delicious and a complete protein.”

From hobbyists to professionals
Before launching Legitimate Farms, Becker and Skippy were not professional farmers; horticulture was more of a hobby. However, the urban farming community is a relative open book according to Becker, and the pair found it was quite easy to learn about different techniques and tools for farming microgreens.

At Legitimate Farms, Becker and Skippy continue that mindset. They are just as eager to share their produce as they are their methods – some of which they’ve developed themselves.

When asked how they came up with the name, Legitimate Farms, Becker and Skippy explained that it resulted from having to clarify that the greens growing on their shelves are really food.

“People always ask us if we grow weed and we have to explain that we’re not, so we say we’re a legitimate farm and it just stuck,” Becker said. Though growing microgreens started as a hobby, it is social consciousness that fuels the mission behind Legitimate Farms.

Where to find their microgreens
The farm does not currently have a retail license, but those interested can buy through Community Supported Agriculture, CSA, for a $30 membership which buys a half pound box of microgreens per week. Legitimate Farms also sells in bulk to restaurants for $10 per pound. Additionally, Becker and Skippy set up a farm stand at their Boylston Street location from time to time, where those interested can buy a small container of greens for $2, and a large container for $8.

Their purpose is to make food accessible to all income levels. “We want our food to be for all people,” said Becker. Addressing food insecurity is personal for Becker, who is from the Philippines where access to food is a growing problem. According to Becker, rice, which is a major crop in the Philippines, is not enough to meet the massive population, forcing the country to import rice from China, which has led to quality issues.

It is a problem that has long been on his mind, Becker said. Armed with the firm belief that healthy, organic food should be cheaper than fast food, Becker and Skippy plan to accept EBT/SNAP cards.

A vision for the future
As Legitimate Farms gets underway, Becker and Skippy envision expanding to other locations like Washington Square and Fenway, so that each location can serve its micro-community within a 1-to-5-mile radius.

Given the abundance of food that their farm yields, and the small space required, Skippy and Becker feel Legitimate Farms could serve as an example for municipalities like Brookline in how to supplement food served at schools and in the community, by setting up similar farms in Town Hall and other buildings.

“I’d like to see one level of the Hancock building be a farm,” Skippy said.

Source: Wicked Local Brookline

Publication date: 4/10/2018



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